Noah Webster & His Words: Jeri Chase Ferris + Vincent X. Kirsch

Book: Noah Webster & His Words
Author: Jeri Chase Ferris
Illustrator: Vincent X. Kirsch
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

NoahWebsterNoah Webster & His Words, written by Jeri Chase Ferris and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch, is a picture book biography of the man who compiled the first American dictionary. We learn that Noah was born in 1758, expected to be the next in a long line of Webster farmers. But Noah wanted to be a scholar, and the world is more literate today thanks to his efforts. 

The book follows Noah through the major events in his life, as he goes to college, becomes a schoolteacher, starts working on his first speller, marries, and so on. I hadn't realized the patriotic underpinnings of Webster's work prior to reading this book, and found reading about Noah's motivations quite uplifting. Here's the first hint:

"In October 1781, King George's soldiers SURRENDERED [verb: gave up] at Yorktown. The war was over at last! America was free and IN-DE-PEN-DENT [adj.: not controlled by others]. THat gave Noah an idea. He would write the schoolbooks for America, beginning with spelling. "I will write the second Declaration of Independence," Noah wrote to a friend. "An American spelling book!"

I quite like the way Jeri Chase Ferris incorporates dictionary-like definitions right into the text. This both reinforces the subject of the book and makes a fairly text-dense book more accessible to new readers. I also like the way she uses a slightly old-fashioned tone to her writing, to suit the time period. Not so much as to make the book inaccessible to modern kids, but just enough to give a flavor, though the use of words like "Alas". The text is rendered in an old-fashioned-looking font, also, furthering this impression. Even the author and illustrator bios at the end of the book follow these conventions, complete with definitions. This made me smile. 

Vincent X. Kirsch's illustrations show somewhat oddly proportioned people (see cover image above), but I think he does capture Noah's scholarly, well-intentioned character. I think that kids will appreciate seeing how Noah ages over time as the book progresses. The muted color scheme also support the historical, bookish feel of the book. The brightest thing on many pages is Noah's blue-backed speller". 

I only had one nit about the text. There's a sentence: "Over the next ten years Noah wrote six more schoolbooks for children and had several children of his own." The "several" seemed imprecise in a biography. I had to consult the end matter to see how many children Noah and his wife did have, to satisfy my own curiosity [8]. I'm guessing that the children arrived over more than those ten years, and this was too complex to explain, but it took me out of the story. This is, however, my only complaint about a solid, interesting, well-written book.  

A handy, illustrated timeline at the end of the book fills in details for those who are interested in extra facts, and should make Noah Webster & His Words a useful reference title for elementary school kids. A bibliography includes both primary and secondary sources [providing a good opportunity to introduce this concept to kids.]

Noah Webster & His Words is a picture book biography done right, from the choice of an important historical figure to the selection of anecdotes and facts to the choice of fonts. It belongs in primary school libraries and classrooms everywhere. As for me, I gained a new appreciation for Noah Webster, and for the importance of dictionaries in making America the distinct country it is today. Highly recommended!

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: November 30: #PictureBooks, #MiddleGrade, #Math + #Literacy

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter has refocused recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have five book reviews (picture book and middle grade), one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (using cliches), and one post about including a bit of subtraction practice during reading time. I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter and one post about my recent efforts to cultivate an "attitude of gratitude." 

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read four chapter book/middle grade, one young adult, and two adult novels. I read/listened to: 

MakerMischiefI'm reading What’s Happened To The University?: A sociological exploration of its infantilisation by Frank Furedi on my Kindle and listening to Stalking Ground by Margaret MizushimaThe books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. I am currently reading my daughter the second West Meadows Detectives book by Liam O'Donnell: The Case of Maker Mischief. Yes, these are illustrated chapter books that she could probably read on her own, but reading the books together has led to some interesting discussions about the autistic main character and his classmates (who also have learning differences). Of course she also loves that the books feature a boy close to her age who is a DETECTIVE. Exciting stuff! 

SantaClausThreeBearsFor picture books, we've been dipping into our stack of Christmas-themed books since Thanksgiving. She especially liked Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Maria Modungo, Jane Dyer, and Brooke Dyer. And she was thrilled that I ordered The Princess in Black Takes A Vacation by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. I tried to save that one for Christmas, but I just couldn't do it. 

I'm continuing to share all of my longer reads, as well as highlights from my picture book reads with my daughter, via the #BookADay hashtag on Twitter. Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. Wishing those of you in the US a Happy Thanksgiving.

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle: Gabrielle Kent

Book: The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle
Author: Gabrielle Kent
Pages: 366
Age Range: 8-12

HexbridgeCastleThe Secrets of Hexbridge Castle is a very fun new fantasy novel, the first of a series by Gabrielle Kent, previously released in the UK. The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle is about a boy named Alfie Bloom who lives a rather bleak life alone with his distracted inventor father. Alfie's life changes forever when he learns that he has inherited an ancient and mysterious castle, and is required to live there. Alfie finds Hexbridge Castle full of hidden passageways and strange contraptions. A mysterious lawyer doles out sparing hints regarding Alfie's selection as heir to the castle, including letters from Alfie's benefactor, the druid who built the castle 600 years earlier. While living in Hexbridge Castle, Alfie finds friends and enemies, wondrous delights and terrible dangers. 

The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle is kid-friendly perfection, full of trappings and experiences that are simply cool. There's a Dahl-esque quality to Kent's writing, albeit with more three-dimensional, modern characters. From page 22, when Alfie and his dad are driven in a carriage that seems to be flying, fanciful touches are everywhere. Like this:

"He led them to a gigantic door made up of lots of other doors of decreasing size, one inside the other, like Russian nesting dolls. The smallest only came halfway up Alfie's knee. "Just through there. Ms. Fortune will sign you in."

"Which door do we open?"

The coachman chuckled as he filled a nose bag for each horse. "Whichever one fits, Master Bloom, whichever one fits."" (Page 24)

Kent also captures the delights of an English farm and village, giving the book a slightly old-fashioned feel, even though it is set in modern times. Like this:

 "Alfie was glad he was so hungry; he could swear the table was groaning louder than his stomach under the weight of the food. His mouth watered as he saw three types of freshly baked pie, soda bread hot from the oven, buttery new potatoes, and a golden roast chicken surrounded by crisp lettuce and tomatoes fresh from the garden. Between the mountain of food and the twins' never-ending questions about the castle, dinner lasted a very long time." (Page 46)

There's a school that bears no small resemblance to the school that Dahl's Matilda attended, and there are occasional hints of Harry Potter in Alfie's persona of near-orphan who discovers a secret about his own birth. These things feel not incidental but more like homages (particularly to Dahl). There's even a scene involving flight that carries a hint of Peter Pan. 

I could keep quoting all day - I flagged another dozen passages, and all of them are wonderful. But I don't want to give away any of the twists and turns of Alfie's story. While I did see a few of the twists coming before Alfie did, my enjoyment of The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle was in no way diminished. I felt more like the author and I were together, quietly encouraging Alfie on. The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle ends in a satisfactory manner, but it's clear that Alfie's story is not finished. Which is a happy thing, because I am very much looking forward to the next stage of Alfie's adventures. Highly recommended, one of my top reads of the year. 

[Update: I was pleased to see, on the very day that I published this review, that Ms. Yingling also recommends The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle.]

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Quick Tip for Including Math Practice with Reading

I MakerMischief'm always keeping an eye out for opportunities to give my daughter a bit of practice with math and show her that math is useful. This morning we finished the first chapter of a book (West Meadows Detectives: The Case of Maker Mischief). She looked at the number at the bottom of the page and remarked: "We read 20 pages." I said: "Well, no, because the story doesn't usually start on page one." So we looked, and sure enough, the text of the first chapter of this book started on page seven. She was quick to tell me that we had read 13 pages. (Technically, we read 14 pages, because we read pages seven and 20, but I didn't see the need to get into that right way. That will be a topic for another day.)

We attempted a similar calculation when we started reading a storybook collection with a table of contents (Biscuit's Christmas Storybook Collection), but the numbers weren't as easy (page five to page twenty-one), and so we dropped the effort for now. But I intend to try this again. 

Page numbers and book chapters provide a natural opportunity for practicing subtraction. Obviously, I wouldn't want to turn every reading session into some sort of drill concerning number of pages. But if you have a child who is achievement-focused ("How many pages did we read today, Mommy?"), I don't think that there's any harm in using page numbers for a bit of extra math practice from time to time.

What do you think? 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Most Perfect Snowman: Chris Britt

Book: The Most Perfect Snowman
Author: Chris Britt
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

MostPerfectSnowmanThe Most Perfect Snowman by Chris Britt is about a lonely snowman named Drift who was "built fast and then forgotten", left without any clothing or even a carrot nose. Drift is mocked and ignored by the other (frankly, not very nice) snowmen. Things change for Drift when a compassionate trio of children happen by and spruce him up a bit. But when the choice arises whether to maintain his spiffy new accoutrements or help someone in need, Drift has the chance to really be perfect. 

OK, so the ending of this one is a little bit sappy. But Drift's reluctance to do the right thing is plausible, and the fact that he does it anyway makes this a good book for kids to read around the holidays. I also appreciated the author's finding a secondary use for a carrot nose, one that I think kids will appreciate. 

Britt's text is read-aloud-friendly, with a series of up and down emotions, and the use of apt vocabulary words. Like this:

"So he spent his days alone, swooshing
and sliding through the wintry woods,

often stopping in the shadows to watch
the others laugh and play."

The three children who help Drift are so excited that they declare him (loudly): "the PERFECT snowman!" The other snowmen watch "in astonishment." There's a fair bit of dialog in The Most Perfect Snowman, and I think that it could also work for first or second graders to read on their own. 

Britt's illustrations are filled with kid-friendly details, particularly the scenes in which the other snowman are partying away, dressed in their finery, and having snowball fights. There's a band with a sign: "Chilly and the Frozen Blobs". Drift raises his arms in the air with joy when a little boy gives him snuggly mittens. The smiles on the faces of Drift and the children as they play together are a delight to behold. 

The Most Perfect Snowman, though not technically a holiday book, is all about giving, from the gifts that the children give to Drift to the gifts that Drift passes along. With its snowman-filled pages and winter adventures, it would make an excellent addition to a winter-themed library read-aloud. I would expect young readers to laugh in the middle, and say "aww" at the end. I look forward to reading this one with my own daughter. Recommended!

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 23: #GiftGuides, Schools, and Thanksgiving-themed #BookLists

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists (many, with Thanksgiving and kindness-related themes), #DiverseBooks, #KidLitCon, #PictureBooks, book awards, book talks, boys and reading, easy readers, gift guides, librarians, screen time, and teaching. I'm posting this a bit early because of the holiday. Wishing you all a joyful Thanksgiving and a peaceful start to the holiday season. 

Awards

Voting Is Open in The Undies Case Cover Awards! from @100scopenotes + @CarterHiggins  http://ow.ly/UI3W306qA0m  #kidlit #PictureBooks

Book Lists

LastStopMarketStreetNew #BookList from @momandkiddo | Children' Books about Kindness http://ow.ly/fe86306orDM  #kidlit #PictureBooks

Helping Kids Prepare for Change: #PictureBook Suggestions and Questions from @BookChook  http://ow.ly/pCRz306qE1z  #BookList

Guard Your Children's Hearts With #DiverseBooks urges @housefullbkwrms http://ow.ly/Riyh306qBET  #BookList #PictureBooks #Kidlit

10 Great #PictureBooks on Thankfulness – #BookList from @tashrow  http://ow.ly/x4eV306qBTJ  #Thanksgiving

Thanks & Giving: A Children’s Booklist for Thanksgiving : @rebeccazdunn  http://ow.ly/55tJ306oroA  #kidlit #PictureBooks

LongWalkToWaterFor Thanksgiving: A #BookList of Refugee + Immigrant Books for preschool to middle grade @semicolonblog  http://ow.ly/fIl7306m1Mm  #kidlit

Beware of Exploding (Numbers of) Nutcrackers, in #PictureBook form, warns @FuseEight  http://ow.ly/hBYu306ooq4  #BookList

Top 10 #PictureBooks that Play with Perception and Perspective, #BookList by @chickadeelit @nerdybookclub https://t.co/HVNtrIBnBt

#EasyReaders Kids will WANT to Read - #BookList from @thisreadingmama  http://ow.ly/Llc7306qCQ2  #kidlit 

Gift Guides

I added some of these to Child's wishlist: Best Single Player Logic Games for Kids, list from @momandkiddo https://t.co/PYrZZ1uFPK

Middle Grade Holiday Book Gift Guide, categorized by interests of kids, from @brandymuses   http://ow.ly/iwB3306orPC 

#YA Holiday #BookList #GiftGuide from @brandymuses | friend groups, romance, families, + more http://ow.ly/MNQ3306qALM  

Growing Bookworms

ReadingInTheWild

Advice from 7th graders about what makes a good #BookTalk, gathered by @katsok  http://ow.ly/JZbM306k966  #reading

Here's a fun idea from @growingbbb | Repurpose Old Games and Toys Into #Literacy Activities https://t.co/wZf5JsdZjl

Good article by C.J. Quinn on BoysRead blog about helping boys build self-esteem via #reading http://ow.ly/LiOm306m1CV  #RaisingReaders

Raising Boy Readers — "read to your boy for his whole life!" + read him what he wants to hear http://ow.ly/lrhM306sZAt  @libraryin @HornBook

Growth Mindset

#GrowthMindset: Clearing up Some Common Confusions | @ebriceno8  @MindShiftKQED  http://ow.ly/x1cW306m1gz  via @drdouggreen #teaching

Building A Tinkering Mindset In Young Students Through Making | @MindShiftKQED   http://ow.ly/HONm306kaC8  #GrowthMindset

Kidlitosphere

KidLitCon2016LogoSquareFor those who missed #KidLitCon 2016, check out @SheilaRuth 's detailed recap w/ photos, tweets + topic lists https://t.co/hvkqpzMg6d

Parenting

Is #ScreenTime Dangerous for Children? @AlisonGopnik thinks fears are overblown https://t.co/lmg06g69oC

Schools and Libraries

Tips for Imaginative #Educators: Let them Obsess - Collections + hobbies for #learning http://ow.ly/Axqf306qDw3  @perfinker @BAMRadioNetwork

Teachers: How to build a better relationship with parents: text them http://ow.ly/4Xc6306qBc3  @jessica_lander @tes @tesusa via @drdouggreen

Teacher-Parent Communication Needs to Improve, Studies Say | @kate_stoltzfus  @EdWeekTeacher  http://ow.ly/V0TD306kau2  #Schools

Further evidence of need for #librarians | Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds @WSJ https://t.co/u01SLVC9SK

"One of the largest disparities ... is access to books at home" New @Scholastic  Study Looks at Equity in #Education http://ow.ly/iTM1306jL7q  

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


An Attitude of Gratitude

ThanksgivingThanksAs Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself a bit more introspective than usual. 

I recently read a human interest piece in my local newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, which has stayed with me. The article was about a local woman named Evelyn Buck who, at 104 years old, still cooks, knits, and organizes an annual bazaar at her housing facility. What struck me most in the article was this bit, on how she stays active and lively:

“I also have a mantra,” Buck said. “You’ve got to live with an attitude of gratitude. You have to be thankful for what you have and quit bellyaching about the stuff you don’t have.”

I read that and I thought to myself: "You know, if an attitude of gratitude worked for this woman who is 104, perhaps I should try it." So over the past few weeks, I'm been reminding myself, probably every day, to have an attitude of gratitude. I'm not doing anything formal. I'm not blogging every day or keeping a list of things that I'm grateful for or anything like that. But when something good happens, I try to notice it, and actively think: "I'm grateful for that." When something annoying happens, I try to stop and think: "OK, but what can I be grateful for here?".

Anyone who knows me will know that I am quite unlikely to turn into a Pollyanna, but I do think that this effort is having a positive impact on my outlook. I'm also hoping to quietly influence my six-year-old daughter in this regard. She's an only child living in comfort, and I would like her to appreciate, on at least some level, how very fortunate she is. It only makes sense that if she sees me being more grateful for things, this may rub off. Please wish me luck!

As a small example, this morning we read a picture book called Thanksgiving Day Thanks, by Laura Malone Elliott and Lynn Munsinger. In this story, a classroom is preparing for a Thanksgiving celebration. A bear named Sam struggles with expressing what he is grateful for, and with how he can help the class to celebrate. As we read, I shared with my daughter the things that I'm thankful for about Thanksgiving, and she shared her own thoughts with me. And then we moved on, but I was happy to have taken a few moments out of a busy morning to have the discussion. 

I wish for all of you a joyful Thanksgiving and upcoming Christmas/holiday season. I am grateful for my family and my friends and for the communities that I share in both online and offline. Happy Thanksgiving! 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


The Magic Word: Mac Barnett and Elise Parsley

Book: The Magic Word
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Elise Parsley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8


TheMagicWordWhen one sees a picture book entitled The Magic Word, one might understandably fear that it will be some moralizing tale about the importance of saying please. One might have this fear, that is, were the author someone other than Mac Barnett. But any aficionado of humorous picture books knows that Mac Barnett is sure to have more fun up his sleeves than that. And he does.

The Magic Word is about a boy named Paxton C. Heymeyer who, when prompted by his babysitter for "the magic word" says: "Can I have a cookie, ALAKAZOOMBA?" When a cookie immediately appears in his hand, young Paxton does what any right-minded child would do. He starts using ALAKAZOOMBA to request other things, like "a walrus that will chase the babysitter up to the North Pole" and a waterslide into the (new) pool in his living room. Paxton's exploits, and his house, get bigger and bigger. But after his friend Rosie shows a marked lack of appreciation for the whole ALAKAZOOMBA thing, Paxton begins to get a tad lonely. The resolution of The Magic Word is rather predictable overall, but with a refreshing, black-humorous twist at the very end.

The Magic Word is fairly text-dense, with a lot of dialog, and feels like more a book for early elementary school kids than for preschoolers. Here's a snippet:

""Pax," said Rosie, "you're a terrible host."

Well, Paxton wasn't going to stand there and be insulted in his very own house, let alone his very own castle with a helipad and pink-lemonade moat.

"WALRUS, ALAKAZOOMBA."

Paxton is not, perhaps, the nicest kid you'll read about in a picture book this week, but The Magic Word is chock-full of kid-friendly wish fulfillment. A lemonade moat. A swimming pool in the living room. A pet elephant. A roller coaster zipping around one's house. You get the idea. Elise Parsley's digitally generated illustrations bring all of these innovations, and more, to colorful life. She also clearly gets across Paxton's rather bratty personality, particularly in a close-up near the end of the book of what can only be described as an evil leer. 

The Magic Word is a book that kids will find fun from cover to cover. It should spark lots of interesting discussions, too, about what they would do if they discovered a magic word that could give them anything. I'm pretty sure that my daughter will be writing a "magic word" story of her own quite soon. Recommended!

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


I Am A Story: Dan Yaccarino

Book: I Am A Story
Author: Dan Yaccarino
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

IAmAStory

I Am A Story, a new picture book by Dan Yaccarino, is the story of, well, the story. Yaccarino begins with the earliest stories, presumably told around campfires by early human tribes. He moves on through cave paintings, hieroglyphics, tapestries, and, eventually, books. Going further, he notes that although stories have been censored, banned, and even burned, the story itself will never die. 

The text in I Am A Story is minimal. Like this (over several pages):

"I was written on papyrus
and printed with ink and woodblocks,
then woven into tapestries
and copied into big books to illuminate minds."

The illustrations, with recognizable Dan Yaccarino-style people, reveal more of the details than are addressed in the text. For example, the "woven into tapestries" page spread shows a king strutting past a tapestry, his cloak held up by a small page. Several suits of armor line the hallway. In one, eyes are visibly following the young page. Wall sconces with flames provide lighting. A small orange bird is seen in each illustration, either alive or as part of a tapestry or other element. The recipients of stories (often children) are shown generally happy. 

This is a book for a parent or teacher to read with kids, I think, so that the context of these various methods of capturing stories can be explained a bit. I Am A Story reminded me a bit of the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World, which explores the history of communication. However, I Am A Story focuses more narrowly on the need of humans to share stories, and the various ways in which this has been accomplished over many years.   

I Am A Story is a celebration of the power of, and necessity of, story, one that few librarians will be able to resist. Recommended for library or home use by anyone who loves history and/or stories. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Literacy Milestone: Using Cliches/Expressions

LiteracyMilestoneAIn the past 24 hours I've heard my daughter use two cliches/expressions correctly. Both of them caught my slightly by surprise, and I wondered where she had heard them. It struck me that correct use of such expressions is a mark of emergent literacy. 

First up was at lunchtime yesterday. We had been working on some household projects, and were having lunch a bit late. I asked her what she wanted, and she said: "Oh, I'm just going to take matters into my own hands." Then she scouted the refrigerator and ended up deciding to pour herself some Lucky Charms. I let this not-so-nutritious lunch pass in general support of her instinct for self-reliance. [And because dinner was only a few hours away anyway.]

Then this morning I was reading to her at breakfast. We were working our way through a stack of recent picture books that had arrived for potential review. She looked at one and said: "Well, it doesn't look that good from the cover. But you know what they say: you can't judge a book by its cover." After coughing in surprise I almost said: "well, sometimes you can", but I decided to let that go. And in fact, she was right that the book ended up not being to our personal tastes. 

As a society, shared communication rests on a common language, including a common understanding of phrases and expressions. It pleases me to see that my daughter, at six, is starting to pick these up herself. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 18: #Thanksgiving Books, Gift Guides + #Learning via #Play

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #LittleFreeLibraries, #PictureBooks, #Thanksgiving, Andrea Beaty, audiobook, empathy, fiction, gift recommendations, growing bookworms, nonfiction, play, and reading.

Book Lists

Announcing the Ultimate End of the Year List Sequence: 31 Days, 31 Lists — Coming in December @fuseeight http://ow.ly/93bi306cuIP  #BookLists

ThanksForThanksgiving8 Great #Thanksgiving #PictureBooks recommended by @momsradius  http://ow.ly/T0l1306cv2k  #BookList

This #BookList from @tashrow spoke to me today: 10 Great #PictureBooks on Quietness https://t.co/69E6bcPgv9

Erica @momandkiddo  always has good taste. Check out her: Favorite #PictureBooks of 2016: Part 4 http://ow.ly/jqu93069Zi0  #BookList

Top Ten #PictureBooks That Encourage Us To Get Outside And Explore by @BooyTweets @nerdybookclub https://t.co/u6BjpCr46d

JosephineCelebrating women and their work, a positive #PictureBook #BookList from @MrsBrownsBooks   http://ow.ly/rwKl3065FkG 

Picture Books about....Books and #Reading, a @RandomlyReading #BookList http://ow.ly/eqAe306hzOR 

Our Top 10 Bedtime #ReadAloud (Chapter) Books (5 each for older/younger readers) by @HKregel @nerdybookclub https://t.co/cqreab13LG

Diversity

When Publishing and Reviewing #DiverseBooks, Is Expertise Overrated? | @LEEandLOW @sljournal  http://ow.ly/t9Mb3065teT  #kidlit

Gift Guides

TryThisGiving the Gift of #Nonfiction | Nonfiction Notions | Suggestions from the #Cybils own Jennifer Wharton @sljournal  http://ow.ly/U6fg306f9ms 

Gift Guide for Young Coders and Engineers from @momandkiddo w/ emphasis on using real-life objects http://ow.ly/ndHr3065Gin  #STEM #coding

Lots of good #kidlit choices for different age ranges in the 2016 Holiday Recommendations Post from @everead  http://ow.ly/qOUN30673iS 

Gifts for Kids that Encourage #Reading (Especially Reluctant Readers) from @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/S4bO306f86y  #Bookmarks #games #magazines 

Resources for organizing a Family #Literacy Night, plus literacy-themed holiday gift ideas from @LauraBarrEd https://t.co/s4pfBwdOjH

Growth Mindset + Creative Problem-Solving

AwesomeLegoCreationsThe Best Types of Toys for Teaching Creative Problem Solving Through #Play | Great ideas here from @mamasmiles https://t.co/uJog2jvYKY

What Makes Struggle Productive? How do you frame struggle in #learning to help kids grow http://ow.ly/jlqY306f7fb  #GrowthMindset @mssackstein

5 Questions to help determine if your #school is aligned with a #GrowthMindset http://ow.ly/R6lw30673tr  @Bcudly @drdouggreen

Kidlitosphere

AdaTwistThe #kidlitosphere's own @andreabeaty is in @WSJ | Children’s Book Author Andrea Beaty’s Favorite Gadgets https://t.co/c85y5HrexQ

Lots of #kidlit links in yesterday's Fusenews: But you tell me over and over and over again my friend — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/yHum3065BWI 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Reading with Your Ears: #Audiobook recommendations + request for suggestions from @donalynbooks @nerdybookclub https://t.co/t1nhBCzVba

Marketing a blog via #LittleFreeLibraries | @op_booklover is sticking labels inside + donating her review books https://t.co/Zah2oAsydC

Empathy by the Book: How Fiction Affects Behavior | literary #fiction has most effect on empathy http://ow.ly/CqXr30673E2  @WSJ 

25 Ways to Make #Writing More Fun for Kids from @thisreadingmama  http://ow.ly/BG5V306hzgZ 

Schools and Libraries

Lovely post on the necessity and joy of Classroom #Libraries by @katsok @Scholastic  http://ow.ly/3Lxe3065H5g  via @MrSchuReads

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses, Book 1): Susan Maupin Schmid

Book: If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses, Book 1)
Author: Susan Maupin Schmid
Pages: 304
Age Range: 8-12

IfTheMagicFitsIf the Magic Fits is the first book in the new 100 Dresses series by Susan Maupin Schmid. It's about a young orphan named Darling who is a lowly servant in a castle, the Under-presser (assistant to Lindy, the Head Presser, who irons the Princess's many garments). When a magical canary is moved to a closet holding 100 never worn dresses, a force is awakened in the castle, one that Darling can't resist trying on for size. Darling finds herself battling jealous servants while trying to understand the castle's magic, and also striving to keep the princess from making a terrible mistake. 

If the Magic Fits has a cover blurb from Jessica Day George, author of the Castle Glower series, and the two series have a similar feel (both with somewhat sentient castles full of interesting people and things). If the Magic Fits has a very different heroine, however, in plucky orphan Darling, who was raised by the kitchen staff when her mother died right after birth. Darling doesn't know who her father is, and one senses that a surprise may be revealed at some point. But for the most part, she works within the constraints of her on-the-edge existence (she fears being cast out of the castle and starving to death, if she errs too far). The butterfly-loving, difficult to woo Princess Mariposa is also an intriguing character, as are some of the other servants. Here's Princess Mariposa describing one of her suitors, for example:

"Princess Mariposa put her face in her hands and spoke through her fingers. "He has the face of a toad, the manners of a pig, and the mind of a flea."" (Page 15, ARC)

And here's Darling:

"... This was like some far-fetched adventure story.

I, Darling Dimple, was having an adventure. Or was it having me. I wasn't sure which. All I knew was that I hadn't finished my ironing, and I had no idea how long I'd been gone. A very annoyed Lindy would be waiting for me, Darling Dimple, ex-Presses... I had to get back as quickly as possible and save my job!" (Page 104, ARC)

and:

"... I swerved to the wardrobe, creeping along inch by inch. I froze as a floorboard creaked beneath me. Nothing happened. I continued  my epic trek across the carpet. Had any explorer ever been so intrepid or so brave?

Had any Princess's Girl ever looked so silly tiptoeing around in the dark to fetch a magic dress?" (Page 117, ARC)

Don't you love her mix of high drama and self-deprecating humor? The above passage sums up the feel of the book fairly well, I think. 

So we have a spoiled Princess who retains a sense of humor, a determined orphan, a gaggle of other servants both kind and no-so-kind, and a closet full of gorgeous magical dresses. There's also a questionable prince, a talking mouse, and a hint of dragons. The plot of If the Magic Fits is nicely paced for middle grade readers, with a satisfying mix of action and character development and scene-setting. I think that If the Magic Fits is a good start to a new series that is sure to please middle grade fantasy fans. Recommended for readers 8 and up. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).